Tired of the Technology Arms Race

Remember back when a new operating system release was a big deal, and software developers went to huge lengths to prevent unauthorized (read: non-paying) people from getting their hands on it?

“We need to get paid,” they reasoned.

Fast forward a few years (or a couple decades).  Remember the surprise you probably experienced in more recent years, when you found out that you could now download the latest operating system for free?

And most recent operating systems offer “silent updating” and otherwise auto-checking for updates, even helpfully downloading them onto your hard drive, ripe and ready for one-click installation.  Oh, and that’s all free, too.

Did the software developers suddenly take a vow of poverty?

I think not.

They’re still getting paid.  By whom?  Well, having spent the past six years in Mac-Land, I no longer know how Microsoft does it, but I know how Apple does.

I have to pause here to say that while I’m mildly interested in technology, I’m definitely not any kind of expert.  Just the idea of inserting a line into a chunk of HTML code makes me shudder.  So I might not have all my facts straight or whatever.  If I say something that needs correction, please feel free to hit the Comment button.  I won’t bite.  😉

OK, so on with bitching about technology (lol)…

Here’s what I’m pretty sure is going on:

Device manufacturers (such as Apple, Samsung, etc) have long since figured out (pretty easily) that the American public (and probably other publics across the world) are gaga for devices.  They also know that if you’re happy with what you’ve got, you won’t see any need to change.  A non-need for change translates to: you happily keep what you have and have no need to buy anything new.

This might make you happy, but it doesn’t sit well with the shareholders.

The device developers know that they’re going to need to push you into new technology.  But they don’t do this overnight.  It’s a slow, gradual, agonizing (for you; they don’t care), strangling, wrangling process.

If you go quietly into the night, stand in line at the mall outside the Apple store or other haven donning new devices, then you are spared this struggle.

If you’re like me and say, “F you, I’m happy with what I have, I’m not changing; I’m going to hold on to my current stuff a little longer”, then they have a way of saying “F you” back.

As outlined here, this exact scenario happened to me.  Bother.

My phone slowly gave me the finger, in an unmistakable way.  I’ve noticed all of my Apple products do the same thing.  And it’s not just Apple; it’s also Google, Firefox (my preferred-but-still-hated browser), WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Adobe Flash, JavaScript, and all the others.  Hell, even our cable company is “in on it”, although to a lesser extent.

They’ll all give you the finger, if you swim against their tide long enough.

Because they don’t want you to swim against the tide.  They want you to be a good little fish and do what you’re told.  Which is, conveniently for them, what they tell you.

They know that you won’t buy their products if you don’t think those products rock the free world at first, so they’ll make them rock…for a while.

And then those devices will start not-rocking.  In fact, they’ll start to suck, right about the time that a new version becomes available.

Whoever coined the term “coincidence” was an idiot.

The manufacturers bank on the hopes that you’ll remember oh what fun it was that you had when you first got your device, and they’re hoping you’ll think your current one sucks enough to ditch, but rocks (or rocked) enough to buy again.

Such a tightrope.

Their modus operandi, the way I (maybe inaccurately) see it, is simple: build a rockin’ product, and then release upgrades wholesale.  Then, nag the piss out of your customers to install these upgrades, knowing damn well that the primary effect will be the gradual accumulation of errors and instability on those devices.  (To see what I mean and how widespread the problem is, just google “updates made device unstable” and have fun.)

“But muh bug fixes!”, they claim.  “And muh closed security loopholes!  And muh added features!”

Because Bullshit.

Those updates create more bugs and errors than they “fix”.  This is because at point in the time in which you buy the device, the hardware is relatively well-matched to the software that comes with it.  The hardware and software were designed to work with each other.  There’ll never be a better match, other than perhaps the very first upgrade, if (and that’s a big “if”) it truly fixes a genuinely unknown bug in the original software.

But other than that, bullshit.  Because as one upgrades again and again, the software distances itself more and more from the hardware you have.  The chasm widens over time, and the congruency between the hardware and software is lost.

Let’s debunk the other claims…

I don’t notice any “closed loopholes”, either.  Was my brand-new device–and its spankin’ new operating system–all that unstable or security-vulnerable to begin with?  (It had better not be, considering its price tag!)

If there indeed exist security loopholes that are so obvious that they’re discovered immediately after the software release, then maybe the software was junk to begin with.  Maybe the developers could have stood to conduct one more round of testing before releasing their crap on the rest of us.  Which, in the past, had led me to wonder why they bothered to release it in the first place.

And to hell with the added “features”; I’ll never use them, and they take up valuable space on my devices that the manufacturers are only too happy to cheerfully tell me.

Meanwhile, none of the features I actually use are in the same place, nor do they look or function the same way.  I’m stuck having to get used to everything all over again.  And I have a news flash to all the techie developers out there: I might be a Riot Nrrrd and all that, but having to learn my way around a new interface every few months (or even every year) is not on my Bucket List, nor is it my life purpose.  I’d rather spend my time doing other things, TYVM.

It’s almost like the developers of today release beta-test-quality software, masquerading as a finished product, to the masses, hoping they won’t notice.  The new “features” come across as mere window dressing, a flimsy excuse for us to download it.

And each new release is purported to be an unspoken apology for the issues they finally admit the last update caused, after denying that fact (at least until everyone had already downloaded it; then they’re all, “surprise, suckers!”  Like we didn’t know).

Hell, even more (and more) tech-based websites are becoming more brave and starting to advise users either to wait to upgrade to the latest version of an OS, or perhaps to avoid that OS altogether.  That’s saying something.

It’s not like the developers don’t know they’re releasing a shit product.  They know.  Apple is even being sued for it.  They load it down with bells and whistles that they pretend everybody wants, fire off press releases that (falsely) claim that everyone wants/loves them, and cover their ears when everyone says they don’t give a crap about the new stuff; they want their old stuff back.

Damned dissent.  We The People screw everything up for The Powers That Be.

Because, see, as I mentioned above, they know that the incessant upgrades will eventually screw up your device.  They know it will destabilize it.  They know you’ll want to revert back.  They’ve even stopped letting you do so.

Software manufacturers used to (kind of) give some consideration to how well new software releases would work on current and older machines.  Now, it seems that they don’t.  In fact, it seems like they want the new versions to slowly corrupt your device.

Because they know that you’ll eventually succumb–if not to curiosity, then to pressure to keep up, and if not to pressure, then perhaps out of frustration with the lack of the functionality you’ve grown to know and love…and you’ll eventually cave and opt for a new device.

I don’t have hard stats, but I would venture to say that new devices are by far a more reliable source of revenue for these companies than software ever was.  And, to state the obvious, since software is mere data and devices are physical hardware, devices can’t be replicated by the average person like software could.  All people had to do to get their own copy of the software was to, well, make a copy.  If they couldn’t do that so easily, there was almost always a hack or workaround lurking somewhere.  Hardware doesn’t work that way, of course, so when you want (need) new hardware, it involves a trip to the store and a (sometimes-hefty) transaction on your credit card.

“But cell phone companies are practically giving those phones away now, so it doesn’t cost you anything to get a new one anymore,” come the protests.

Au contraire.  Nobody is actually fooled into thinking they’re actually giving away sophisticated technology that’s in high-demand, right?

Good.

Because they’re not.

You may be able to walk out of the store, spanking new device in hand, for no money down, all right, but companies are going to make (even more) money off of you in the long run, through the new high-dollar service agreement (and binding contract) you just signed.  They’re either charging you more money than before, or the details of your new plan reveal something having been taken away (such as doing away with your grandfathered-in unlimited data plan, for example).

Or, if you signed what is essentially a lease, such as Apple’s Upgrade Plan, under which you pay off your phone in payments for two years, at the end of which you own your phone free and clear, start crunching the numbers involved; what should have been a $500-750-dollar phone ends up costing $778-1,079 by the end of those two years.  Not a good deal.

There’s always something in it for them.  Usually, more so for them than there is for you.

Apple also makes sure that when you update your apps, they will only work on the last couple OS versions.  They do this by removing/making unavailable tools for writing code for older OS versions.  So the app developers are forced to update their apps constantly, too.  And of course, as new versions of apps are released, your older version will become less stable and less functional.

This explains the issues with devices and their apps, although I’m not sure that it explains the issues with web browsers.  Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t.

Google started with the pompous announcement of a “rapid release” schedule for new versions of its Chrome browser, around 2010.  Instead of releasing a new version every three months, which had been their strategy before that, they were now going to push new releases out every six weeks.

Even back then, I groaned.  Here we go.

But I was using Firefox; I didn’t need to be concerned.

Until I did.

Soon after that, Firefox followed suit, in a browser Cold War.  They couldn’t just let Chrome bury itself in user frustration and bad Public Relations; they (figured they) had to join them.

Firefox is now on version 53.  I had to go look it up, because I was running version 42 until it became unusable (ha!) and I had to install something newer.  I now run version 48, but I did not allow that to install itself over version 42.  I’m so jaded by previous update experiences that I didn’t want to give up version 42 altogether; I had regretted so many other updates that I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t regret this one, too.

Because I suspect that most of the new features included in the new browser versions are a lot less for our benefit than they are for the benefit of other, unseen entities.  Entities that want to use your data to their advantage.  I suspect that behind the scenes, newer browsers collect and report far more data about your identity and surfing habits than older versions did.

How else can they stay in business?  How else can they pay the programmers, which I’m sure they’ve hired far more of, just to meet the increased demand of their self-imposed every-six-week release schedule.  Not even all Firefox developers/experts are on-board with this rapid-release plan.

And the “enhanced security” claim is bullshit, too.

The real reason I kept my version 42?  Because the millisecond I “upgraded” to Firefox version 48 and logged into Twitter for the first time after the update, I discovered that my “tweet” and “follow” buttons had disappeared altogether from view on Twitter’s website.  This ordeal will get its own post fairly soon.

This is another example of the petty, childish cat-and-mouse game between advertisers and users.  It’s not that users insist on seeing zero ads; most internet users don’t mind a certain amount of advertising on the websites they visit, and will gladly accept them as part of internet life in order to be able to view content for free.  It’s not that the internet users don’t get that.  They/we do.

However, internet users start to kick up an understandable fuss when the advertisers go too far.  In the ’90s, we witnessed obnoxious misbehavior by advertisers, whether it was in the form of banner ads that flashed–brightly and incessantly enough to probably induce seizures even in non-epileptic people, or the 16 pop-up windows that instantly populated your screen just because you wanted to download the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” song on MP3.

And it hasn’t stopped there, either.  Even though individual pop-up windows are mostly gone (although there are plenty of persisting exceptions), it has merely been replaced with another phenomenon.  When you pull up what seems like practically every informative commercial website, the webpage-at-large fades to dark gray and a box appears (in the middle of the page, blocking the heart of the content) that nags you to “sign up for our mailing list!” or something similar.  In order to view the content you were originally after, you have to get past the box first, successfully closing it, after which the webpage’s content will be visible once again.

Sometimes, that box will show a tiny, faint-gray “x” or “close” in one of the (usually top) corners.  Other times, that “x”/”close” will be there, but only after you hover your mouse pointer over that corner will it actually appear.  Still other times, there will be no “x” at all, but if you click anywhere outside the nag-box (i.e., in the dark gray space), the box will go away and the content will reappear.

Most of the time, when you see something like this, the website has been built on a WordPress.org backbone for commercial websites.  The websites themselves are beautiful – sleek, clean, and contemporary – but the nag-box that immediately “greets” you is annoying.  And more and more companies are electing to use WordPress.org commercial sites, so you’re only going to see more of this.

And then there’s WordPress itself.  It’s constantly changing.  WordPress bloggers are all-to-well aware of this.  The new-and-(not)-“improved” editor will get its own post altogether, too.  They’ve been warned.

In short…

I’m tired of the constant revisions and updates.  What those constant updates indicate is that the product was shoddy to begin with, and yet it was allowed to be released anyway, and I’m sick of that, too.  I’m tired of the way these updates are forced on us (or at least very strongly nagged about).  I’m tired of what they do to our existing hardware.  I’m tired of the functionality of the technology that I’ve come to know, love, and rely upon slowly getting eroded and stolen away from me.  I’m sick of the constant one-upmanship pissing contest between different device developers and social media websites.

I’m tired of having to re-learn new interfaces every few months, and I’m sick of seeing features and functions I’d come to use often suddenly get taken away in newer versions.  I’m tired of always having to do something with my devices.  I should not have to live on my “updates” screen, nor should I have to live on Google to try and figure out what the hell happened with “this” feature or how to navigate through “that” function or process.

I’m also tired of having to continuously shell out more money just to remain technologically functional, lest I start to lose function if/when I choose to keep what I have for a longer period of time than The Powers That Be deem acceptable.  With the price tags tethered to these gadgets as huge as they are, we should certainly be able to expect that our devices will function for more than a year.  I would say that at least 5-10 years would be reasonable; after all, that was the average lifespan of older technology (such as stereos, car phones, etc) that came with a similar price tag.

Seriously, this is getting insulting and enraging.  It’s also getting pathetic.

I have a solution for the shareholders that insist upon this crap: either 1) invest in a different company, or 2) pressure the company to develop better devices that people will actually want, rather than forcing people to replace the same device every year or two.  (“The average person only keeps their phone for two years” is a bullshit statistic, because it’s made to sound voluntary; what’s really going on is that people are finally throwing in the towel every two years because they get tired of their device not functioning like they’d been used to.)  Come up with cooler, more useful, more solid/stable technology, stuff that people actually want.  And then they’ll buy it willingly, and you get to save PR face.

Until then, Fuck Off.  My next computer system will probably not be a Mac.  It will more than likely be a Unix/Linux, unless you change your tune and fast, and I’m definitely not the only one who is saying that.

It’s my time and my money, after all.  And I’m going to take some of it back.

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7 thoughts on “Tired of the Technology Arms Race

  1. Planned Obsolescence. It’s not just tech stuff. It’s major appliances too. A washer, dryer, refrigerator used to last forever. Now you can bet something will go wrong right about the time the warranty runs out. I think it BS too!

    1. Hehe thank you! 😉💖. Omg I’m sure you’ve seen the various discussion threads on the WP forums about it? Holy hell, *nobody* likes it. At least we have strength in numbers 💪🏼😉💓

      1. Funning thing was the “new and (not) improved editor” was already available when I joined WP last year but I still preferred to use the “old” editor so for me at least, it definitely wasn’t the case of not getting use to the “new and (not) improved editor”.

      2. Yes!! Omg I will probably write an entire post about the new editor, and compare and contrast it with the good old one. Should make for a cathartic, even if boring, post lol 😂😉💖

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